On April 11, Google introduced its Inactive Account Manager, which allows users to make a choice to either delete their data after a pre-determined length of account inactivity or to name heirs for the data from some of its most popular services, including +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube.
Many small business owners routinely use Google’s free tools in the daily operation of their business. The disposition of these digital assets is an important conversation you need to have with your Family Business Lawyer™, as part of your business succession and estate planning process.
Google users can now access the new Inactive Account Manager on their Google Account settings page. But what about other major Internet companies that hold most of your online data? Here is a guide to their current policies:
Facebook – Facebook will remove the account of a deceased person at the family’s request, or even “memorialize” the account (which allows friends and family members to post memorials on that person’s page). Facebook will not disclose any passwords, transfer account ownership or turn over the contents of the account.
Twitter – Will only disclose account data with a court order; will not disclose account passwords or contents. Account will be deactivated if family member provides Twitter with a death certificate and notarized statement.
LinkedIn — Will not disclose any passwords, transfer account ownership or turn over the contents of the account unless ordered to do so by a court. Family members can request that an account be deleted. Executors and others beyond family members (like an employer) can have the account hidden from public view by reporting the death to LinkedIn if they know the email address that is linked to the account.
Yahoo – Honors requests from family members to access the account of a deceased person only if that request is included in the decedent’s estate plan. Will also deactivate an account if a death certificate is provided.
Microsoft – For Outlook and Hotmail users, Microsoft will not disclose passwords or transfer account ownership unless a family member has a court order or the permission of the account owner to access the account. Will deactivate the account if requested to do so by a family member.